The concept of legal liability can be confusing, particularly after a slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall accident on someone else’s property. Knowing whether you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries can be difficult to ascertain. Alberta’s Occupiers’ Liability Act outlines the technicalities involved in such injury claims.  

This blog will explore the concept of liability in relation to personal injury claims commenced under the Occupiers’ Liability Act and outline the legal obligations that a property owner or occupier has to maintain reasonably safe premises for lawful visitors.

Who Does the Occupiers’ Liability Act Apply to?

The Occupiers’ Liability Act is provincial legislation that establishes the duty of care a property owner or occupier owed to a lawful visitor. The legislation applies to “premises,” which are physical locations generally defined in section 1(d) as all private residences and businesses. 

An “occupier” is defined as an individual or corporation who has physical possession of the premises or has responsibility and control over the condition of activities conducted on and the people permitted to enter the premises. However, there may be more than one occupier at a time for any given premises. For instance, the Occupiers’ Liability Act may apply to a property owner and another party with a degree of possession over the property (such as a landlord and a tenant). 

For the purposes of the Occupiers’ Liability Act, a “visitor” is considered a person who is legally allowed to be on the premises in question. A visitor may receive express or implied consent to be on the premises. A duty of care is not generally owed to a trespasser unless their injury was the result of the occupier’s reckless or wilful conduct. It is also important to note that section 3 of the legislation states that it does not apply to an employer’s liability regarding their duties to employees. 

What is a Duty of Care?

The occupier owes a duty of care to lawful visitors to ensure they are “reasonably safe in using the premises for the purposes for which the visitor is invited or permitted by the occupier to be there…”. In other words, the occupier must take reasonable steps to prevent reasonably foreseeable injury or harm to a visitor on the premises. 

The duty of care applies to the condition of the premises, third parties on the premises, and activities conducted on the premises. Examples of reasonable steps to ensure visitor safety may include removing potential hazards and addressing potential risks when identified. Further, issuing a warning will not necessarily result in a complete discharge of liability.

If a duty of care was owed to a visitor and breached, resulting in injuries, the visitor may have a claim for compensation against the occupier for their injuries. However, the Contributory Negligence Act can apply to Occupiers’ Liability claims to apportion fault among all parties involved to the degree each party was at fault. 

Potential Claims Under the Occupiers’ Liability Act

There are various ways in which the Occupiers’ Liability Act may apply in certain situations. While the Occupiers’ Liability Act’s basic principles apply to private and public settings, there are some key distinctions to be aware of. Commercial occupiers can be held to a higher standard of care compared to private property owners, as they are expected to take more proactive steps to identify and mitigate potential hazards to their visitors. Additionally, commercial occupiers are typically expected to have a more systematic approach to identifying and addressing potential risks, compared to private occupiers who may not be liable for a potential danger they were unaware of. 

Private Premises

Some examples of claims under the Occupiers’ Liability Act involving private premises include:

  • Slip or Trip and Falls: If a visitor slipped on a wet floor or icy walkway, or tripped on hazardous material or uneven stairs that the occupier of the premises knew, or ought to have known about, but failed to take reasonable steps to warn or fix, they may have a claim for compensation.
  • Poor Lighting: Inadequate lighting on stairs, walkways, or porches can lead to accidents and serious injuries for visitors.
  • Swimming Pool Accidents: Homeowners with pools have a heightened duty to ensure safety measures like proper fencing and supervision are in place, especially if children are present.

Commercial Premises

Some examples of claims under the Occupiers’ Liability Act involving commercial premises include:

  • Slippery Surfaces in Stores and Restaurants: Spilled food, drinks, or cleaning products left unattended in stores or restaurants can lead to slip and fall accidents resulting in serious injuries.
  • Escalator and Elevator Malfunctions: Commercial property owners are responsible for maintaining escalators and elevators in safe working order.
  • Improperly Stacked Merchandise: Products that fall from shelves or are stacked unsafely can seriously injure customers in stores or businesses.

It is important to note that the above lists are not exhaustive, and the specific facts of each case will be assessed to determine liability. As such, it is important to seek legal advice if you or a loved one have been injured on someone else’s property in order to understand your rights and potential legal options under the Occupiers’ Liability Act.

Calgary Personal Injury Lawyers Providing Top-Tier Representation in Occupiers’ Liability Claims

The skilled Calgary personal injury lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP draw upon their extensive experience in order to assist clients with a variety of personal injury claims, including claims under Alberta’s Occupiers’ Liability Act. Whether you have sustained an injury due to a slip and fall, trip and fall, or other accident, our lawyers will review the details of your case and provide you with an assessment of your potential claim. To schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our personal injury team, reach out to us online or by phone at 403-571-0555.